By SUNDAY ADEPOJU
As the February retirement date of the incumbent Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu draws near, there are varying permutations on who steps in as the new police boss. SUNDAY ADEPOJU writes on the suspense over the unfolding events.
THERE is suspense across board in the Nigeria Police Force over who becomes the next Inspector General of Police (IGP). The seeming uncertainty is most pronounced at the top echelon of the force because of strategic place of the police in the security architecture of the nation.
By official record, the incumbent IGP Mohammed Adamu is expected to bow out of office on February 1, 2021, after a meritorious service to his fatherland. And there are permutations about who might step in as his successor based on extant laws guiding the choice of a substantive IGP. Some bookmakers have tipped the Acting Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Moses Ambakina Jitoboh. Born on June 1, 1970, he enrolled in the force on October 6, 1994 and is due for retirement in 2029. In other words, he is 50 years old. Others being touted as the next IGP include some Assistant Inspectors General of Police, including AIG Dan Malam Mohammed Kastina who was born 18/12/1963, enlisted into the force on March 3,1990 and due to retire on December 18, 2023; AIG Sanusi Nma Lemu, who hails from Niger State and was born on March 31, 1963, enlisted on March 15, 1988 and due to retire on January 31, 2023 are also in the race.
There is a new police law on the appointment of an IGP. Under the law signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2020, it is only an officer with a period of at least four more service years can be appointed as IG. Available records indicate that out of the 23 of the 24 AIGs who are due for retirement between January 8, 2021 and March 1, 2023 either based on enlistment or age, only Jitoboh, the youngest of them all has more than eight years left in the service – twice the legal requirement of four years. He is due to retire in 2029. Of particular importance is Section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 (PDF). It is also believed that none of the six DIGs representing the six geopolitical zones in the police management structure is eligible for appointment as IG, based on the required years of service outlined by extant law. The police service records showed that two of the DIGs—Celestine Okoye (South-East) and Lawal Shehu (North-Wwest) are said to be due for retirement in December 2020, while Aminchi Samaila Baraya (North-East); Anthony Ogbizi Michael (South-South) and Adeleye Olusola (South-West) will retire alongside IGP Mohammed Adamu (North-Central) in February this year. DIG Sanusi Lemu (North-Central) is expected to proceed on retirement in January 2023.
Incumbent IG Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, who is the 20th indigenous IGP, came into office on January 15, 2019 to succeed IG Idris Ibrahim, who was appointed in 2016 upon attaining the mandatory 60 years of age and 35 years of service in 2019. However, the history of IGPs since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 has always followed a standard. There is no tradition of extending the service for any IGP, save for Tafa Balogun and the incumbent’s predecessor, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, who served for three years due to an unprecedented wave of insecurity, particularly in the North-East, North-Central because of the herders and farmers’ crises.
In the case of IGP Balogun, he had a tenure extension because of the crucial 2003 general election of 2003, after the expected two-years tenure for serving heads of security and military chiefs. Nonetheless, all this was subject to decision of the approving authority: the President and Commander- in Chief- of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
A cursory look at the records on past IGPs and their tenures indicated that between 1999 and 2002, Musliu Smith was the IGP, while he was succeeded by Mustafa Adebayo Balogun (2002-2005). Sunday Ehindero, held sway from 2005 to 2007 and handed over to Mike Mbama Okiro (2007-2009); then Ogbonna Onovo (2009-2010) and Hafiz Ringim from 2010 to 2012. Others included Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, 2012-2014; Suleiman Abba, 2014-2015: Solomon Arase, 2015-2016; Ibrahim Idris, 2016-2019 and the present IGP, Mohhamed Adamu mounted the saddle in 2019. Concerning him, he is expected to proceed on the usual a three-month terminal leave to pave way for his retirement on February 1, 2021 in line with tradition.
Granted that the relevant laws on the appointment of a substantive IGP are unambiguous, many observers hope for a strict adherence to the process that will throw up the next police boss in the land. Their contention is that any likely waiver by the appointing authority to grant tenure extension now will utterly undermine the law, the provisions of the Police Act, 2020 (Amended) which provides in section 18(8) of the Police Act, 2020: “that Every Police officer shall on recruitment, or appointment, serve the Nigeria Police Force for a period of 35 years or until he attains the age of 60 years whichever comes first.” So, it will be a breach of the law to grant such waiver for even six months because, according to observers, it will be against the spirit of the law recently assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari a few months ago. The contention is that such action can trigger avoidable tension within the system, especially the command- structure of the police hierarchy, lower moral and disrupt systematic movement of top officers in line with their seniority and rank. They cited the views once expressed by former IGP Solomon Arase when he frowned at the extension gesture, saying it tends to create unnecessary tension within the command-structure.
There are those who hold a contrary view. In their opinion, the President still has the prerogative to keep Adamu or ask him to proceed on retirement. This submission views the current security architecture which the police under the current IGP has developed as sacrosanct in the efforts to fight insecurity and ought not to be truncated at these critical times by retiring him even if he is due. While the final decision lies with President Buhari, he has a fairly large number of proven professionals to make Adamu’s successor. Whereas, this is often from the rank of AIGs, knowing full well that current DIGs, as a matter of tradition, are equally retired each time the head of the management team, in this case the IGP, bows out, it is important to state that beside the present acting DIG Usman in charge of Finance and Administration, who retires in 2023, other DIGs have their retirement dates this year and next year. Acting DIG Moses Jibotoh comes to mind as apart from his excellence performance in handling affairs of the force which was the reason the police authority gave for his recent to the position of DIG; it is also on record that the South-South deserve to have to their own occupy the exalted position this time around.